Last Updated: January 26th, 2021
Zero Drop running shoes are the rage these days and rightly so.
They are gradually taking over the tracks and the trails.
If you are a trail runner and want to try these shoes out, then you are in the right place.
Below you will get a list of the best zero-drop trail running shoes of 2021
My favorite is Altra TIMP 2 Trail Running Shoe. However, there are 5 more great alternatives for you to choose from.
Also, check out the FAQ section. It will help you to make the correct decision.
However, if you are someone who prefers more cushioning, then you may check out these best-cushioned trail running shoes.
Our Top 3 Favorite
Altra TIMP 2
- 100% man-made.
- Claw-like lugs made from durable MaxTrac.
INOV-8 BARE-XF 210 V2
- Meta-Flex for natural forefoot flexibility.
- Sticky outsole provides better grip.
- Multisport shoe.
Vibram V Trail Runner
- 100% Polyester and Spandex Combo.
- Durable rubber outsole with prominent lugs.
- 3-D Coocon Tech for Rock-Stopping protection.
Best Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes of 2021
1. Altra Men’s TIMP 2 Trail Running Shoe
Altra TIMP is one of the best zero drop trail running shoes and is most popular among trail runners.
They are a 100% man made shoe and no one knows the trails and its runners need better than Altra.
The upper of this running shoe is made from a mesh material which makes these shoes very breathable.
No matter how hot the weather is, you will always remain comfortable while wearing these shoes.
There will be absolutely no sweat or blisters.
The outsole of the Altra is made from durable rubber called MaxTrac. It has aggressive lugs which are shaped like claws.
This gives these shoes a superior grip on the trails and you will get a very stable ride.
The midsole is made up of ultralight EVA foam with A-Bound.
These foams are very durable and don’t wear off easily.
You will be able to use these shoes for a longer period of time.
This is a fully cushioned shoe with zero-drop which means the differential between your heel and the forefoot is zero.
To provide you with maximum comfort the toe box has FootShape.This keeps all your toes securely in place.
Also, they don’t bunch up or rub against each other causing you painful blisters.
It is designed to give you a very comfortable experience.
While using this shoe you will have natural foot positioning, toe splay, and overall great comfort.
Not only for trail running, but you can also use these shoes for Ultrarunning, Long Distance running like a marathon, or for fastpacking for an adventurous trip.
This shoe is a bit different to look at than its peers. It has a rugged dashing look. This makes it very popular among men.
If you have any kind of lower body problems like a pain in the Achilles or knee pain, but still want to venture in the wild, then these running shoes are your best bet.
Here is a video directly from Altra explaining the features and qualities of their best trail running shoes aka Altra TIMP.
- ✓ Good for people with Achillies and Knee Pain
- ✓ Plush cushioning with great stability
- ✓ Comfortable and lightweight
- ✓ Can be used for multi-sport.
- ✓ Very durable
- ✓ Overall roomy in-shoe experience
- ✓ Mesh upper gives you a custom fit
- ⤫ May slightly struggle on the rocks
- ⤫ A bit expensive
2. Vibram Men’s V Trail Runner
If you are looking for a near to barefoot running experience, then these are the right shoes for you.
They are made from a combination of 100% Polyester and Spandex.
While wearing these shoes, you not only get the experience of barefoot running but also you will get some amount of compression.
This will help you while going for a long run as your feet will not get tired.
Though the upper is a blend of fabric material, the outsole is made from durable rubber.
This helps to keep your feet protected from rocks and sharp objects on the trails.
It is a zero drop shoe and is for the minimalist. so, you will not get a lot of cushioning.
However, since the forefoot of the shoe is in the shape of fingers, you will have a very comfortable in-shoe experience.
It is made from 3D cocoon technology and is molded into the sole to provide rock-stopping protection.
In this latest version, the protection is extended until the ball area.
The insole is made from a 2mm EVA foam which is very comfortable and durable.
On the outsole, you have multi-directional lugs. This provides you with a proper grip in all directions.
Inside the shoe, you will also get an anti-microbial poly fabric sock liner. This will help to keep the sweat and foul odor at bay.
So, you will always feel fresh even after prolonged wearing of this running shoe.
Also, it is very easy to clean these shoes. You can machine wash and air dry them.
However, don’t put them for a wash at high temperature as it will damage your shoe.
- ✓ It will give you a near barefoot running experience
- ✓ Good for Plantar Fasciitis and ankle problem
- ✓ Good grip even on muddy trails
- ✓ Comfortable even for bigger feet sizes
- ✓ Extra arch support
- ✓ Decent compression
- ⤫ Some people may feel the shoe has higher back
- ⤫ Some bunching may occur
3. Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 4 Runner
This is a minimalistic shoe but not the five finger types.
It looks like a normal running shoe and has optimal protection in the right places.
However, you will not get that pillowy feeling of a heavily cushioned shoe but rest assured your feet will remain protected when you are out on trails.
This shoe is a blend of textile and synthetic material. The upper has mesh and TPU material which are very durable.
The mesh lining makes these shoes very breathable and keeps your feet cool and dry.
It is vegan-friendly. This means no part of the shoe is made from animal parts.
The outer sole is of type Vibram TC5. It will provide excellent traction on the widest range of surfaces.
Also, they have a high degree of abrasion resistance and was made using vulcanized rubber.
Additionally, these outsoles also have aggressive lugs of 3mm for underfoot protection. It is also called Trailprotect pad.
The insole is of 3mm thickness and gives you an ample amount of cushioning while you are on the run 😉
The Stack height is 11.5mm which is decent enough for a minimalist running shoe like this.
Each of these shoes weighs only 0.5 pounds which is extremely light compared to other shoes of its category.
It has got improved arch support and you will have a very comfortable running experience in them.
They will fit you snugly and they are true to their size. You will not have to go up or down in size to get your fit.
They also are capable of handling multi-sport and as stated earlier, they will provide you with awesome traction on any kind of surfaces.
They are stylish to look at and you can wear them even with your semi-casual attire in the office.
If you are planning to buy these, do not do so until you have watched this detailed customer review video here.
- ✓ Good protection against sharp objects on the trail
- ✓ Improved arch support
- ✓ Good for multi-sport like cross training and walking
- ✓ Provides excellent traction on any kind of surfaces
- ✓ Lightweight and stylish
- ✓ Perfect for hiking/climbing difficult trails
- ✓ Straps on the side gives it a nice snug fit
- ⤫ Soles tend to show early signs of wear and tear
- ⤫ Stiffer outsole
- ⤫ Bit pricey
4. Inov-8 Men’s Bare-XF 210 V2 Sneaker
These minimal zero drop running shoes are made from a combination of textile and synthetic.
The rubber sole is made from inov-8’s patented sticky rubber compound.
It is designed with maximum surface area coverage provides minimal dis-junction between foot and surface.
Also, the thickness of the outsole is 3mm (approx.). This is not a huge stacking if you compare it other running shoes.
However, since this is a minimalist running shoe, this is a decent amount of stacking and will give you ample amount of traction and responsiveness.
It is a zero drop running shoe. So, the shaft measures approximately low-top from the arch.
In other words, the differential between the heel and forefoot of the sole is near zero.
These shoes are not only great from trail running but due to its lightness, they are great from speed training also.
The upper is made from improved material and is now lighter and gives you better breathability.
Also, there is plenty of space in the toe-box. Hence you will have a decent amount of wiggle room in the toe area.
These shoes are decently flexible and help you to maintain your natural forefoot flexibility.
To maintain this, Meta-Flex technology comes into the picture.
The new Adapter web cradle lacing system holds your foot secure in the shoe ensuring the shoe moves naturally with the foot.
The updated 360 degree Rope-tec delivers traction and durability on rope climbs while the Italian blown rubber toe bumper provides protection.
They can be used for multi-sport like CrossFit, HIIT training, etc.
True to its fit and can be effectively used by sprinters as well.
Very lightweight and you sometimes may feel that you are wearing almost nothing.
They will give you a very comfortable running experience.
- ✓ Very comfortable
- ✓ Wider toe box
- ✓ Great traction
- ✓ Light weight
- ✓ Very stylish
- ✓ Can be used for multi-sport and training
- ⤫ Price is at the higher end
- ⤫ Insoles may bunch up
5. Merrell Women’s Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe
These shoes are one of the best minimalist trail running shoes. Apart from the outsole, it is 100% textile.
Wearing these you will get a glove-like feeling.
Though these shoes are minimal, they are not too minimal.
They are of the category of VFF Jaya. The difference being, they are not Five Fingers and are a traditional running shoe.
You can also secure them as they come with laces and can be tightened or loosened at your will.
The footbed is integrated microfiber and this gives you a very soft feeling under your foot.
And they come with 0mm cushioning with 0mm heel-to-toe drop.
This gives you a near to barefoot running experience.
The outsole is made from TPU which makes them very durable and provides them with a superior grip.
Also, wearing these you can run on multiple surfaces as they provide excellent traction and responsiveness on different kinds of surfaces.
These include concrete, asphalt, muddy trails, etc.
The upper contains breathable mesh. This keeps your feet cool and dry and you will always have a very comfortable running experience.
They are machine washable in cold water and with gentle cycles. Air dry them after wash.
Also, they come in a variety of vibrant colors. You have lots of options to choose from according to your style.
They are 100% vegan and the sole is Vibram. They stretch in multiple directions, giving you proper grip from all directions.
Not only for trails, but you can also use them for city runs.
However, since the sole is thinner than the traditional running shoe, you have to gradually ease into them.
These shoes have a decent amount of space in the toe box and you will get a lot of wiggle room.
Apart from running, you can also use them for weightlifting, CrossFit, HIIT training, etc.
They are comparable to FIve Fingers but you will not get that annoying feeling of socks around your toes while running.
Also, they are very lightweight so they will never weigh you down.
- ✓ Very stable pair of shoes
- ✓ Good fit, comfortable and breathable
- ✓ Roomy toe box
- ✓ Lightweight
- ✓ Great shoes for speed work
- ⤫ A bit pricey
- ⤫ Durability is a bit less
6. Xero Shoes Prio – Women’s Minimalist Barefoot Trail and Road Running Shoe
These shoes are very lightweight. They are designed to give you your desired performance.
However, that doesn’t mean that these shoes are not comfortable. On the contrary, they are decently comfortable.
The thickness of the rubber sole is less and this is a minimalist shoe.
Also, this is a barefoot-inspired shoe so you will be able to feel the ground beneath through the FeelTrue rubber sole.
They are perfect for any kind of sports like road running, trail running, fitness, Crossfit, hiking, and more.
This is a lightweight, flexible performance shoe with a priority to Foot-first design.
Wide toe boxes let your toes spread and relax. So, you will never feel crunched in or will not get blisters wearing these shoes.
This is a zero drop shoe and the differential between the heel and the forefoot of the sole is negligible.
These shoes are low-to-the-ground and provide you with proper balance and agility.
The flexible sole lets your feet bend and move naturally.
This makes these shoes super responsive and you always get a comfortable ride.
However, Prio runs a bit small. So always order a 1/2 size larger than your normal size.
If it still doesn’t fit you properly, you can always get it exchanged.
No animal products have been used to manufacture these shoes and are 100% vegan-friendly.
They come with adjustable instep inverted ‘V’ straps. Since these straps are not sewn down, you will be able to lock your instep more securely.
The middle section of the heel has reflective straps. This enhances visibility in low light conditions like early morning or during the evening.
This ensures that you’ve been seen much ahead by the drivers and any unfortunate accidents can be averted.
For an added protection to your feet, you will get a 2mm insole which will keep you very comfortable during your runs.
- ✓ Perfect for trails and cities
- ✓ Good fit, comfortable and breathable
- ✓ Suited for multi-sport
- ✓ Lightweight
- ✓ Great shoes even for older people
- ⤫ Toe box seems to be a bit narrow
- ⤫ Pricier
1. What are zero drop running shoes?
Altra is the pioneer of zero-drop running shoes. They coined the term ‘Zero-Drop‘.
It is a shoe where the heel and the balls of the foot are at the same height from the ground.
Currently, many companies are making zero-drop shoes and this term is often confused with a minimalist shoe.
Though a zero-drop shoe can be a minimalist shoe and vice-versa, but it is a misconception that zero drop shoes are minimalist shoes.
If any running shoe or for that matter any shoe fulfills the criteria described above it is a zero drop shoe.
Image curtsy PrimalHacker
2. Are zero drop running shoes good?
Zero drop running shoes maintain your natural motion.
This is very healthy and will help you to avoid a lot of stress-related injuries.
However, if you have flat feet and you overpronate, then you should choose a zero drop shoe that is not minimalist.
Altra TIMP 2 Trail Running Shoe can be a good choice for you.
3. What are zero drop running shoes benefits?
Different types of running shoes have different benefits.
For example, if you are wearing a high-heeled running shoe, you will be able to propel forward faster.
This will be helpful if you are taking part in racing.
And, if you are looking for higher endurance, then you want to go for a shoe with a thicker mid-section
However, zero-drop shoes have its own benefits.
It feels more natural
No matter what kind of a foot you have, your heels and the balls of your forefeet are always at the same level.
This is your natural formation.
So, the more natural you can keep your gear, the more benefit you will get out of it.
In zero drop shoes, your heels and the balls of your feet are at the same level.
So essentially you are running in the most natural way possible.
Hence, it is easier for you, and also it reduces the chance of a lot of injuries like Knee Pain, Hip Pain, and Ankle Pain.
You will get injured a lot less
Shoes that have higher heels will literally force you to land on your heels.
Which is also called a heel strike. This is dangerous for your knees and is the major cause of your knee pain.
When your heel strikes the ground it resembles the braking of the car.
In such forced situations an equal amount of shock is passed from the ground to your knees.
This not only causes knee pain but also you may start getting pain at the side of your hips.
Another problem with high heels is that your body is always tilted forward.
This interferes with your body’s natural alignment and you will start getting hip pains.
However, if you are going for zero drop shoes, you will be in more control of your running posture.
So, you will be able to fine-tune until your running posture is at peace with your body.
When you are running with a high heeled running shoe, you are more prone to heel strike.
This makes you more vulnerable to knee and hip injuries.
Also, when your feet land on your heels, due to its very resource-intensive nature, you end up spending more energy than required.
This reduces your efficiency and performance.
If you transition to a zero drop running shoe, your chances of landing on the forefoot and the toe are more.
Since, this is how your natural movement is, you tend to spend way less energy and your efficiency automatically improves.
Also, when you land on the forefeet, the shock is evenly distributed between your feet, leg muscles, and calves.
The shock will never directly reach your knees which is the primary reason for you to get a knee injury in the first place.
More options available to try
There is a misconception that zero drop shoes are minimalist shoes.
There are plenty of options in this category that are very well cushioned like Altra TIMP 2 Trail Running Shoe
However, if you want to try out any minimalist shoe, you will automatically be choosing a zero drop shoe.
So, in a way, if you make the switch, you will have more types of running shoes to try from.
Better stability and improved performance
Zero drop shoes give your feet their natural position back.
Wearing these running shoes, your feet are not elevated at an angle and your body does not have to deal with this awkward posture.
This makes you more stable while running.
As a direct result, you get an improved performance from the same amount of effort that you were putting earlier.
4. Should I get zero drop running shoes?
This is a decision that you will have to make.
While deciding on this, keep in mind that your performance will be affected by your choice of shoes.
Also, these shoes will definitely keep you in better health.
I would advise starting using these shoes when you have a lot of time before your next race.
Don’t change the shoes in the middle of the training.
Also, don’t try these shoes on your race days as you will be in for a nasty surprise.
Start trying them at least a week in advance so that you have plenty of time in case you want to go back to your earlier shoes.
Also, if you are used to a cushioned shoe, don’t transition directly to a minimalist zero drop shoe.
A running shoe like Altra Escalante Racer will be a nice compromise.
5. Who should wear zero drop running shoes?
Since zero drop shoes gives you back your natural foot positioning, it is safe to wear for anybody.
However, by zero drop if you are thinking about minimalist shoes then think again.
Sometimes minimalist shoes are not good for you if you have special feet conditions like Morton’s Neuroma.
In such cases it is better to go for cushioned running shoes which are zero drop.
If you are not sure, it is always good to consult your podiatrist before making a decision.
6. Who makes zero drop running shoes?
There are many companies that have started to make zero drop running shoes.
However, the pioneer in this field is Altra. They even coined the term “zero-drop”.
Here are the best companies which manufacture zero drop shoes:
If you look for the best zero-drop trail running shoes of 2021, you will find a lot of options.
Some are expensive and some will not cost you much.
However, choose your running shoes wisely.
I found Altra TIMP 2 Trail Running Shoe to be the best among the lot.
However, feel free to do your own research.
Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.
Cristine Agresta, Sarah Kessler, Emily Southern, Grant C Goulet, Ronald Zernicke & Jessica Deneweth Zendler (2018) Immediate and short-term adaptations to maximalist and minimalist running shoes, Footwear Science, 10:2, 95-107, DOI: 10.1080/19424280.2018.1460624
1. Gillinov SM, Laux S, Kuivila T, Hass D, Joy SM. Effect of Minimalist Footwear on Running Efficiency: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Sports Health. 2015;7(3):256-260. doi:10.1177/1941738115571093
Schutte, Kurt Heinrich. The effect of minimalist shoe training on lower limb kinematics and kinetics in experienced shod runners. Diss. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University, 2012.
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